The Surprising Way Having a Preemie Impacts Your Health

It's not just moms who are at risk—dads are, too. 

Premature Babies, Depression in Moms Chaikom/Shutterstock

When your child is born prematurely, chances are that his or her well-being is your only concern. But a new study says that your own health could deteriorate as a result.

The research, published in JAMA Pediatrics, reveals that 40% of moms whose babies were born 'very preterm' (before 30 weeks) suffered from depression in those early weeks. The rate was only 5% for moms who carried their babies to term. Moms weren't the only ones affected, though—36% of dads with very preterm babies experienced depression as well. 

Researchers monitored 113 mothers and 101 fathers of very preterm babies, and 117 mothers and 151 fathers of full-term infants to draw their conclusions. They monitored them for signs of depression shortly after giving birth, then again every two weeks until 12 weeks, and again at six months.

Turns out, it wasn't just those early weeks in the NICU that wreaked havoc—parents of very preterm babies were still reporting elevated levels of depression six months after their babies were born. The good news? The percentages did decline with time. At six months, 14% of moms with very preterm babies experienced depression, much closer to the 5% of moms with full-term babies. 

"Our findings show that it is common for parents to be distressed in the weeks following very preterm birth, but it is also important to note that distress does tend to improve over time for most parents," said lead study author Dr. Carmen Pace of The Royal Children's Hospital in Melbourne, Australia.

The takeaway? There's no doubt that parents of preemies have extra stress on their shoulders, but it's important to talk to a professional about how you're feeling. Unchecked depression can get worse over time, and that's not ideal for mom or baby.